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Community-wide COVID-19 testing ‘not very meaningful’

Population-wide testing for COVID-19 “not very meaningful” as the spread of the highly infectious disease is not happening in the community.

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UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:46 am

Addressing Wednesday’s daily press conference about Macau’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, Alvis Lo Iek Long, a clinical director of the public Conde de S. Januário Hospital Centre, said that for the time being it was “not very meaningful” for the local government to carry out population-wide testing for COVID-19, as the spread of the highly infectious disease is not happening in the community, adding that widespread testing for the disease would require the use of huge human and material resources.

Lo also said that instead, it was more effective for every resident to regard everybody whom they meet or are in touch with as a possible asymptomatic carrier of the disease and to fully adhere to the COVID-19 protection measures accordingly.

Macau has confirmed 41 COVID-19 patients. Macau’s “first wave” of 10 patients – comprising seven tourists from Wuhan and three locals – have been discharged. All the 31 patients in the “second wave” – which began on March 15 – are still undergoing treatment. All the 31 cases in the current “second wave” have been classified as imported, most of them local students returning from overseas.

Lo, also a consultant pulmonologist at the public hospital, pointed out that so far all the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Macau’s “second wave” are imported cases, adding that most of the COVID-19 patients are those who were found to have COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival at the city’s border checkpoints or who were diagnosed with the disease during their 14-day quarantine at home or at a government-designated hotel (“quarantine hotel”). Lo said that consequently, the health authorities currently do not expect the novel coronavirus disease to spread in the local community, at least for the time being.

Lo noted that it would be impossible for the local health authorities to carry out a COVID-19 test for everyone in the city, adding there was no guarantee that those who have undergone a COVID-19 test would not be diagnosed or infected with the disease later on. Lo said that consequently, it would “not be very meaningful” to carry out community-wide testing for COVID-19.

Lo pointed out that the local health authorities launched COVID-19 testing for the city’s casino shuttle bus drivers after a casino shuttle bus driver – Macau’s 10th confirmed COVID-19 patient – was diagnosed with the disease during Macau’s “first wave” of the COVID infection – which lasted from January 22 to February 4, adding that all of the about 400 casino shuttle bus drivers who took part in the testing at that time tested negative for COVID-19. Lo said that with reference to this experience, the local health authorities determined that to carry out a novel coronavirus test for all those without COVID-19 symptoms would not be an effective use of resources.

According to previous government announcements, a total of 392 casino shuttle bus drivers underwent a COVID-19 test in February, with all the results negative. There are reportedly some 1,000 casino shuttle bus drivers in Macau.

During Wednesday’s press conference, the Health Bureau’s (SSM) Control of Communicable Diseases and Surveillance of Diseases Department Coordinator Leong Iek Hou pointed out that the local health authorities have been carrying out nucleic acid tests for all those returning from COVID-19 high-prevalence countries and regions. Leong said that too many resources would need to be used if the health authorities decided to carry out COVID-19 test for residents who have not left Macau or have not visited COVID-19 high-prevalence areas, which she said would be a wasteful use of resources. Leong said that instead, resources should be allocated for medical staff members to fight the COVID-19 threat.

Meanwhile, Lo also said that of the currently 31 COVID-19 patients in Macau, 14 have so far shown only a few or no symptoms at all, while 16 have shown symptoms of pneumonia.

Just one of the 31 cases, a 50-year-old local woman, has been classified as “serious.”

(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)
PHOTO © Government Information Bureau (GCS)

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:46 am

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